Too Little Too Late: Universal Music Finally Realizes That Maybe CDs Were Too Expensive

from the you're-about-a-decade-behind dept

David Herron alerts us to the news that it’s finally occurred to the brain trust at Universal Music that, perhaps, CD prices were too high. They’ve introduced a “new pricing structure,” which effectively means they’ve lowered the suggested retail prices on many CDs to between $6 and $10. Amusingly, the article quotes an anonymous person at a competitor who doesn’t like this at all:

“Why does Universal feel the need to get below $10?”

Uh, perhaps because the market is shrinking because people find it too expensive otherwise. Either way, this move seems like way too little, way too late. Doing this in the late 90s might have been a start, but this isn’t going to get people who have stopped buying CDs back into a plastic disc fix.

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Companies: universal music

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Comments on “Too Little Too Late: Universal Music Finally Realizes That Maybe CDs Were Too Expensive”

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Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What does this mean? are Universal Tunes on iTunes about to drop to fiddy cent (0.5 USD) a piece? Will am Amiee street type pricing model emerge out of the fray of this “felony intervention with a business model”? Will universal find that they are selling more than 5 times as many downloads at 50 cents as before and making more money to boot?

I have one thing to say … wow … universal might just stand a chance. Whats next dropping RIAA to gain public support.

definition – felony intervention with a business model – competition.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

by Anonymous Coward(s)

Hold on… I haven’t bought a CD in years, but at $6, I might actually ‘sleep with the enemy’ and get a disk I might really like…

I stopped buying CDs because of the label’s immoral behavior, and will only resume if they fix that. $6-10 dollars is still $6-10 dollars they will spend on suing teenagers and grandmothers, publishing bogus reports, and paying politicians to pass draconian legislation.

weneedhelp (profile) says:

They just dont get it:
We are happy to see that a major music vendor has made a decision to lower his price substantially, because it’s what the customer wants today if we are going to see a viable CD business,” Trans World Entertainment CEO Bob Higgins said.

“viable CD business” Poor Poor Bobby. Dont they see that the plastic disk is going the route of the 8-track, LP, and cassette?

:(Quiet playing of taps in the background):
Hey Bob, the future of your industry will become more promotion, and touring, hence a production company. Giving away music for free to promote the band and get ppl into shows. Thats where the money is. That is where the future is going.

Fushta says:

CD v iTunes

The typical album on iTunes is what, $9.90? Is the same album is only $6.00 on plastic, I still wouldn’t buy it.

I would never pay more for a digital format than physical. It just doesn’t make sense. Same for eBooks that cost $10, but I can buy the paperback for $2.00 at half-priced books.

Regular MP3 files should be $0.25 and lossless $0.50, max.

zellamayzao says:

Its a start

Ill give them that, but I think it might be too little too late like stated in the article. Thought I dunno there have been some artists I like here lately to release cds that I have downloaded and would actually like to purchase them but the 15$(+) price tags deterred me. If there are any good artists left under the scope of Universals label coverage maybe I might pick up a few of those discs.

Rich says:

You can still buy CDs?

Seriously, where do you even go these days to buy a CD? Target’s and Costco’s of the world, I guess?

I spent the better part of my late teens and early 20s in Tower Records, pouring thru their offerings looking for the ones that were on sale for $11.99 or less. Or better yet, I hit just about any used CD store I could find because prices were so ridiculous. Had they done this back in the 90’s, my CD collection would probably be about 4 times the size it is now. I’d still be buying them more than likely. Now? Who can be bothered to go to the store to buy a CD? Maybe if I’m already there for other stuff.

Even now, though, $10 for a digital album is too high, and I find myself still searching for the “deals.” Amazon music is great in that respect; they have a daily deal, and also always have stuff for $5 and under…

Anthony (profile) says:

Re: I wish could buy CDs for $15

Brooke one thing you need to take into account between Australia & the US is the amount of money people are paid. In Australia the people serving youat the shops are paid at least $16 an hour (some pay up to $20 an hour). In the US they’re paid $10 an hour. Also the average wage in Australia is AUS$25,000 a year more than it is in the US. Also new release CDs at any store not owned by Brazin are around $25 each (check out the likes of Big W & K-Mart next time). Taking into account the currency rates and that’s around US$21 for the album, which on percentage of income is the similar as the US.

Brooke says:

Re: Re: I wish could buy CDs for $15

That’s a good point but there’s a lot of ppl who get way less than that. Students and pensioners are 2 groups that defiantly don’t get anywhere near that much. Big W and K-mart don’t stock any of the music I listen to lol. Those stores only stock generally mainstream music. If you’re like me and listen to metal your choices severely limited.

alternatives() says:

Why should the backers of the DMCA get rewarded

These “people” have decided to use changes in the “law” to “protect” their business model. (not to mention what was shown in the CD price fixing trial)

I see no reason to reward their past behavior with my vote of money.

At the point where I decided to not reward them with my money I changed my habits. Now my habits no longer include what they have to offer.

My suggestion is that others follow, because without the “votes” of your money these “people” can’t go to congress and get more screw the consumer laws.

Chris Pratt (profile) says:

Good for us, bad for music industry

I think they’re going to end up shooting themselves in the foot with this. People aren’t buying CDs not because they’re too expensive (at least not only because). They’re not buying them because they’re inconvenient. Digital music is the standard now; even you buy a CD, you’re just going to go home and rip it to your computer.

However, places like iTunes are going to have a hard time justifying $12.99 for a digital album when you can purchase the same thing for $6-10 bucks in a brick-and-mortar. I think the end result will be that the music industry will drive down the price of music across the board.

Jamie says:

Re: Good for us, bad for music industry

Wait, you mean an artitrary price point that eventually falters because consumers are unwilling to buy the product at that price might have to change? That the strategy of buying legislation to support a broken business model fails when consumers realize that they simply don’t care any more?

That the price-point for a shiney disk was being maintained by legal engineering, not market reality, and that the interests of the RIAA and the artists it ostensibly serves are not perfectly aligned, unless you’re U2 or Metallica?

It is almost as if economics applied to music, or something!

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Good for us, bad for music industry

I disagree with your first point. There’s still a large army of Luddites out there who haven’t worked out that digital music exists or how to use it, so lower prices might make them pick up more CDs. A lower base price also makes CDs more of an impulse item – something to grab on a whim when checking out at Wal Mart or Target, or maybe you’ll pick up 2-3 CDs when you used to only grab one. Although few people still go to record shops (those that still exist, anyway), most will end up in another kind of retailer that just happens to sell CDs…

As for your second point, well I hope this happens but I doubt it. The labels will try to hold on to the higher pricing they fought so hard for with iTunes, and they’ll probably be less willing to give up their premium single track price in favour of a lower album price, even if that makes more sense.

I personally predict that this will bump up the sales of CDs temporarily, but time will tell whether this translates into greater profits for Universal, whether others will follow suit, or whether it trickles down to the digital market. I predict a long, frustrating wait, as ever.

Vincent Clement says:

Re: Re: Good for us, bad for music industry

That CD section at Walmart and Target gets smaller every year. When I visited a Target about a month ago, the CD section consisted of an aisle or two in the electronics section and mostly consisted of CDs released over the past two years. Only a few artists had older selections.

Jamie (profile) says:

Re: Can you illustrate that as a testable proposition?

For instance, can you predict a price-point at which CDs would become preferable to consumers again?

Just to stake out my own position, I think that if RIAA distributed CDs at about the price of production, I think people would happily accept them.

Of course, that would require RIAA to actually promote artist’s interests, and rethink how they do business.

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Re: CD Prices

“I still prefer Music CD’s over MP3’s. CD’s are more durable than digital formats. Less worry about hard drives failing. Call me backwards, but then again that’s me…”

One day computers will come with data contingency plans as standard. Unfortunately, they will likely be piss poor web based offerings that no informed user would trust with their shopping list. NAS boxes are great but for those stuck on Windows, the software to do backups is largely expensive or cumbersome. Maybe Windows will eventually grow up to be a real operating system with such basic utilities as SSH and rsync.

Actually, there is at least one good backup program for Windows called Cobian Backup, but it still lacks support for decent network protocols such as SSH.

Etch says:

Re: CD Prices

Allen said: “I still prefer Music CD’s over MP3’s. CD’s are more durable than digital formats. Less worry about hard drives failing. Call me backwards, but then again that’s me…”

I don’t wanna call your comment ridiculous.. but it really is ridiculous! My BIGGEST issue with CDs is scratches and skipping! The only CD that lived with me for more than 4 years before it started skipping was a CD that I never took out of its plastic wrapping in the first place!

I swear I remember owning a CD for a band named Opeth that I loved, I literally never took the CD out of my CD player for close to 6 months, and by the 7th month it started skipping.. I took it out to look for dust and found it all scratched up!
How did a CD get scratched up just by playing it repeatedly and never taking it out of the player? I don’t know, but that is the point when I completely gave up on CDs. They are a terrible medium and its about time they DIE!

As for Hard Drive failures.. I back everything on my PC to an external drive anyways, and I usually end up upgrading my PC before my HDs expire, so I never faced they issue. Besides, if you bought your music digitally, you can re-download them from the site you bought it from if you still have your login information! Can’t do the same with CDs.

Digital formats are 100x more durable than physical CDs, and that’s a fact. With Blu-ray Discs they fixed that problem, (durable anti-scratch surfaces) and that is why I’m a huge fan of Blu-ray Discs, even though eventually i would also prefer Digital Formats. But for now, I’ve never owned a Blu-ray Disc that failed on me or got scratched!

Anonymous Coward says:

You are not entitled to my money.

This story warms my heart. It shows that a decade of effort may be starting to pay off finally. Basic economics 101 says they don’t have a choice really, and all we need to do is continue to be patient. To paraphrase from another commenter: I do not want to destroy the music industry. I do not want to destroy the recording industry either. I DO want to destroy the anti-consumer, anti-liberty parts of it though.

Having been repeatedly burnt by corporate greed and anti-consumer hatred over the years, I probably won’t be supporting the industry by buying their albums at the newly lowered prices. I will however keep buying used CD’s, which over time should also drop in price thanks to this plan of theirs. If they were to sincerely apologize to the world someday and admit they acted like a two year old having a temper tantrum, I might then reconsider my boycott. Not going to hold my breath on that though.

Flakey says:


I agree with Allen Harkleroad about storage backup. Hard physical backups have saved the day more than once. No matter what you do at some point you will wind up reformatting Windows. Either a vicious virus or malware will make it necessary or the logs in Windows will get so big that the only way you’ll get speed back is to reformat. Either way, what you had on the computer is then gone.

Now you can back up to harddrives but you run into the problem of most HDs having a 50,000 hour life span for the average. At some point they crater, taking your backup data with it.

The one sure thing that survives computer formats and data loss is external physical backup.

The problem with cds and dvds is not scratches, it’s providing proper care for them. You put them in cases, you handle them by the edges, and you always put them up when done; back in it’s protective case. If you’re still getting scratches then you have a faulty design in your player. I’ve cds and dvds that are going on 12 years without issue in use. They are always on hand when needed.

You don’t need the net or anything else to get back up to speed. It’s all at hand. Some of us are not so blessed to get decent internet speeds and depending on just getting the updates via internet is a painful process at best.

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